Staff Reporter

Several varieties of local vegetables were traditionally grown or abundantly found in all backyards and were always part of our diet.

Thiruvananthapuram: Food crisis, food riots and food security are terms that we thought would never be heard in our time. Yet, they are stark realities before us now.

The Keralites’ dependence on vegetable produce, rice and grains from the neighbouring States is a situation that the State brought upon itself, by giving up the small home-based farming culture and many traditional foods that used to grow aplenty in all backyards.

An exhibition of some 30 varieties of leafy vegetables, grains and tubers that was once available in all households in the State and which were always part of our diet, was an eye opener for many who attended a discussion on food security, organised jointly by Sakhi Women’s Resource Centre and the conservation group, Thanal, here on Friday.

The leafy vegetables, which included several varieties of ‘cheera’ — ‘sambar cheera,’ different varieties of ‘ponnamkanni cheera,’ ‘kuppa cheera,’ ‘valli cheera’, ‘agathi cheera,’ ‘kozhuppa,’ ‘mullan keera,’ ‘thakara,’ ‘thazhuthama’, ‘madhura cheera’ and many local vegetables like ‘valaringa,’ ‘peechil,’ ‘nithyavazhuthana,’ ‘chunda’ were traditionally grown or abundantly found in all backyards, explained Suresh, an activist of the Haritha Mithram groups from Kollayil panchayat.

About 30 Haritha Mithram groups in Kollayil panchayat are engaged in farming these local varieties of leafy and other vegetables. The programme began in 1998, when as part of the vegetable promotion scheme; the panchayat began to distribute seeds and saplings of different varieties of ‘cheera’ to encourage organic farming.

The items were chosen as these were easy to grow, pest resistant and were good for health.

Many women who had come for the exhibition were surprised to note that many of the leafy vegetables on display were ones that were familiar to them.

Several varieties of tubers including tapioca, yam, ‘kaachil,’ ‘chembu’ etc were displayed, courtesy, the Central Tuber Crops Research Institute. Many varieties of grains — including barley, ragi, horse gram or muthira, ‘chaama,’ ‘thina’ or firefox millet, sorghum or ‘mani cholum,’ maize.